All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Friday, November 16, 2018

Forgiveness is for me, not for others

What we love to hear:  Your sins are forgiven.

What? Do you really mean it? Even the worst, most secret sin in my life? The biggest skeleton hidden in my remotest closet?

What we don’t like to hear: For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Wait a minute. You don’t know the whole story! This person took the life of my loved one!

My friend Bill used to say to me, “Douger, there’s a little bit of larceny in all of us.”

I’ll go one step further. I think there’s a little bit of vindictiveness in all of us.

I use this week’s Public Hearing for a local businessman as an example. Ron Redick killed his business partner in 1991, and has spent the last 26 years in prison. At age 81, he has now requested that Governor Snyder commute his sentence, so that he can spend his remaining years in freedom.

The Michigan Parole Board holds these Public Hearings allegedly for the sole purpose of determining whether the inmate is fit to reenter society, and whether he/she might be a threat to society.

But the reality of the situation is that an Assistant Attorney General re-tries the case, hoping to confuse and debunk the testimony of the inmate and to prove that the inmate is still a criminal, will always be one, and should never get out.

Friends and family members testify: Our father’s life has been taken…why should the killer be freed? The former sheriff, the successor judge, the prosecutor, all agree that he should stay in prison. Why? Because he took a life. Keep the bastard locked up!

I struggle, then, with the title MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. Does “corrections” mean improvement, rehabilitation, restoration? And if that is accomplished, and a person can be released as a productive member of society, isn’t that a goal, a victory?

While behind bars, Ron has stayed out of trouble. To the contrary, he has improved himself, helped others by mentoring and tutoring, and has written several books. His closest friends and family members say he’s remorseful, and just wants to return to his family. Does it sound like he might re-offend? 

I so appreciate the way Norway handles incarceration. For example, it does not even have a sentence of life without parole. As criminologist Bob Cameron puts it. “In general, prison should have five goals---retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation."  In his words though, "Americans want their prisoners punished first and rehabilitated second."

In Norway, the life of every criminal is considered redeemable. What a concept! In contrast, I contend that the only goal of our system is retribution. Restoration and rehabilitation be damned.

Back to my original point.

We cherish and embrace forgiveness for ourselves.

We loathe it for those who have wronged us.

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